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SIFE student gardening 2012HCC Child Development Center Nature's Classroom Enhancement Project

March - April 2012

Project Area (Community Improvement, Public Education, Safety, Affordable Housing):HCC Child Development Center (CDC) K4 Nature's Classroom Educational Outdoor Play Area


The K4 outdoor play area is in the process of being certified as a Nature's classroom. The play items had been constructed in compliances with the Nature's Classroom specifications, but the plant life and many of the supporting elements were needed. In addition, an assessment by the Sustainability Council noted areas of deficiency and made suggestions that needed to be instituted.


The SIFE Team met with the director of the Child Development Center (CDC) to discuss their needs. From that meeting an implementation plan was developed and research was performed. The list of proposed expenditures was discussed with Ms. Fernandez. As the team was developing the timeline a few of the items on the list were completed by on-campus clubs and the College. So, we added more elements.On Friday, April 27th Erick Vanderpool and Advisor L. Tarrago met with Mark Hughes, the store manager. Mark introduced us to Mike, the garden department manager. Mike and three other Lowe's employees helped select the right plants for the area and helped find the gardening equipment, waterfall and shed. In addition, eco-friendly bird feeders were installed to attract a variety of birds for study by the children.

Then the items were transported to the center where members of the SIFE team, student volunteers, and CDC staff and parents met to execute the plan. The plants were arranged and planted by the students, staff, and some of the children from the CDC. The plants were arranged in sets and patterns to help the students learn patterning, similar/different, types of leaf structures, colors, counting by twos, basic plant care, etc. The existing drip system was adjusted to water the new plants. After watering in the plants, the shed and waterfall were installed. Then on April 30th the Lowe's employees, College officials, students, and SIFE Team members were invited to an open house at the CDC.

The children and other attendees enjoyed the event, although work-related requirements prevented the Lowe's employees from attending as planned. A subsequent event will be set up to present the Mr. Hughes with a before/after poster of the area. In addition, a banner thanking Lowe's hangs on the CDC fence to let all know about the contribution Lowe's has made to the beautification and education of our future leaders, the children of the CDC. Together with student volunteers planted 84 plants, installed a waterfall, assembled a storage building, provided 10 sets of student gardening gloves and shovels.

We believe that the barren outdoor play area for the K4 students is now truly a Nature's Classroom the uses natural elements to enhance the learning of the students. The vibrant colors, the native plants installed in groupings and patterns, the lifelike animal statues (teaching the difference between mammals, reptiles, birds), the bird feeders (that attract songbirds of all colors and vocal ranges), flowering plants (that attract butterflies), and the gardening implements to be used in planting herb and flower gardens (to teach the plant life cycle). Now, the children of the CDC have an aesthetically pleasing environment where they can explore nature and apply learning basics (math, phonics, spelling, biology, and other subjects). In addition, many of the students live in apartments and do not have the opportunity to experience the joy of growing a garden. Now, they have that opportunity to do so and their parents can learn along with them.

What we learned:

The team learned about making a detailed plan and timeline. The team learned about adjusting a plan for changes in the elements and objectives. Working with the children of the CDC, the SIFE team and student volunteers learned a lot about working with children and seeing nature through their eyes.

Quotes from businesses, students, faculty advisors, community members, BAB members, etc. about the impact of your project:

"It's beautiful! Ms. Miriam, a K3 teacher.

"What an improvement! This is so much better than we expected. The students now have a great place to learn and play." - Terri Fernandez, CDC Director .

"Let me know if you do this anymore. Even if I have graduated, I would like to come back here and help." Edward Navarro, student volunteer.

"I like the palm trees and the bunny statues." - Aidan, CDC student.

"This project was a great success. The HCC students really put there all into the implementation. They worked well together and even allowed the CDC students to help them plant the new plants. It was a great intergenerational experience.” - Linda Tarrago, SIFE Advisor

SIFE Collage Lowes Grant